Why Dell Now Is in Process of Consolidating Storage Lines

Dell is going the way of EMC, IBM and HP in positioning itself as a one-stop enterprise storage IT shop.

Dell storage

Dell would like to leave a simple message in the mindmail of IT-buying decision-makers: You can now go to one location to discuss all your enterprise storage needs. That place would be Dellstorage.com.

Because Dell has been collecting storage and storage-related companies like new hats for the last six years, it has been tricky at times for potential customers to navigate the product lines. Each of Dell's storage divisions has its own strengths and specialties, so a customer really has to know his requirements well before sitting down to discuss a deal. Otherwise, time and energy is wasted, and no one wants that.

No matter that iSCSI storage maker EqualLogic, acquired in 2008, is based in New Hampshire. Never mind that block-level/automated storage provider Compellent, acquired in 2010, is based in Minnesota. Don't worry that backup and disaster recovery software maker AppAssure, acquired in 2012, is in Virginia.

Not a big deal that storage protection maker Credant is in Texas. No matter that Dell's basic PowerVault direct- and network-attached storage takes up residence in Round Rock, Texas.

They all operate inside the rather large Dell corral, although a lot of people don't know it. Still, why aggregate them all under one name, when they've already been well-established in their original brands?

"Customers are looking to solve business problems," Bob Fine, director of Product Marketing at Dell Compellent, told eWEEK. "They're not looking so much at (specific) products; products are a vendor language, a vendor lexicon. The user lexicon is 'I want to grow my business by X percent,' or 'I have some business infrastructure that I want to invest in.' They don't want to know about X drives or storage or whatever; they just want a solution to the problem they have.

"This way, Dell presents them the portfolio, and frankly we'll bring together the best of all the platforms."

With Dell's large existing global installed base, there's a lot of interest in the storage roadmap, Fine said.

"This is a long-term plan. We've had a lot of separate (product) announcements, and we should explain how all those pieces fit together," Fine said. "It's not just about NAND flash in the server; there's also fluid cache for SAN (storage area networks). It's also about basic direct-attached and network storage.

"We've made some announcements about our software-defined storage strategy; and we have our core (enterprise) products in Compellent and EqualLogic. All of them together form a family, an end-to-end strategy, and they fit together."

Long term, this will all mean that Dell storage customers--no matter what original hardware maker--will be able to more easily mix and match components, features and other available parts to build the right storage apparatus for the enterprise. Thus, Dell is going the way of EMC, IBM and Hewlett-Packard in positioning itself as a one-stop shop for all things IT--in this case, storage.

While Dell will continue to support customers who are used to working closely with their trusted EqualLogic and Compellent brands, the corporate storage folks will oversee each transaction and make sure that the best solution overall is in place at each customer's data center. This could mean, Fine said, that new components for a solution could come from other parts of the company in order to make each solution airtight for the customer.

Dell is in the process of re-engineering a number of parts and components so that they will be more interchangeable among various systems.

This is a natural progression for a company that has gone through as many acquisitions as Dell has prior to going private a year ago. Dell has bought 19 companies in seven years, many of them storage-related.

Fine said that while both the EqualLogic (generally mid-range-size data centers) and Compellent (mid-range and larger data centers) continue to grow in sales on their own, "what's really interesting is that the number of customers starting to buy both is increasing as well."

Some customers are using Compellent at the core and EqualLogic at remote sites, and others are putting together their own cross-platform systems, Fine said.

Eventually, all the storage products under the Dell umbrella will be dubbed Dell Storage. The first one to have this change was the Dell Storage SC4020, announced in June. All subsequent new products will follow this convention, Fine said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...